As per a study, presently 263 million children are out of school including 202 million belonging to secondary school age and 130 million out of them are girls. Despite all efforts and progress made by the Government in previous years, more girls are still denied education than boys – with 15 million girls of primary-school age estimated to never set foot in a classroom. Investing in the education of girls brings high returns in terms of breaking cycles of poverty and aiding economic growth, but it also improves children’s and women’s survival rates and health, delays child marriage and early pregnancies, empowers women both in home and workplace, and helps tackle climate change.
In proposed target, 4.1 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the UN said, “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”, meaning that each of 263 million children currently out of education will be entitled to twelve years of quality, fee-free primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education by 2030. Achieving universal access to those twelve years of education is both a matter of human rights and a huge investment in the overall development and economic growth of the world. Here are a few ways in which unlocking the potential of millions of girls can have a wider impact.
An estimated 15 million girls a year are married before they are eighteen. Many are forced to marry by their families in exchange for a dowry – which is seen as a way of alleviating poverty within family. Once married, many girls wanting to continue their education are often denied this right, due to traditional roles they are expected to play in the home, such as childbearing and cleaning. Education is one of the most powerful tools to enable girls to avoid child marriage and fulfill their potential. And the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married before the age of eighteen and have children during her teenage years. It also gives girls the chance to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions including when, and whom, they will marry.
With twelve years of quality education, girls are upto six times less likely to marry as children – compared to those who have little or no education. Estimates show that if all girls had access to secondary education, child marriage would drop by 64 per cent.
Over 140 million girls worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) – a form of gender-based violence where parts or all of external female genitalia are removed or injured for no medical reason. Education is integral to any strategy to reduce FGM, as it can play a key role in changing individual and societal views. In fact, data shows that girls and women with no education are significantly more likely to be in favour of existence of FGM – for example, in Kenya, approximately 38 per cent of women and girls with no education support the continuation of practice, in comparison to approximately 6 per cent of women and girls with secondary or higher education.